13 January 2011

Advanced UAVs On The Horizon

The next generation of military UAVs will be bigger, faster, and boast more firepower. Are we seeing the beginning of the end of manned fighters and bombers?
The massive Global Observer, built by AeroVironment of Monrovia, Calif., is capable of flying for days at a stratosphere-skimming 65,000 feet, out of range of most anti-aircraft missiles. The plane is built to survey 280,000 square miles — an area larger than Afghanistan — at a single glance. That would give the Pentagon an "unblinking eye" over the war zone and offer a cheaper, more effective alternative to spy satellites watching from outer space.

The estimated $30 million robotic aircraft is one of three revolutionary drones being tested in coming weeks at Edwards Air Force Base.

Another is the bat-winged X-47B drone, built by Northrop Grumman, which could carry laser-guided bombs and be launched from an aircraft carrier. The third is Boeing's Phantom Ray drone that could slip behind enemy lines to knock out radar installations, clearing the way for fighters and bombers.

These aircraft would represent a major technological advance over the Predator and Reaper drones that the Obama administration has deployed as a central element of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan. Unlike most of the fleet of more than 7,000 drones, the new remotely piloted planes will have jet engines and the ability to evade enemy radar.
By: Shelldrake

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